Nutrient-potent and ranging in flavor from tangy to bitterly-sweet, these foods originated decades ago in the cultures of Japan, China, India, and Germany.
Fermenting imbues foods with the health-enhancing properties of live bacteria, providing an ample source of probiotics, which are essential to a strong digestive tract. Probiotics help build up antibodies to pathogens and provide for a strong “gut immunity” which is key to maintaining overall vibrant health.
So which foods are frequently fermented? Find a short list below…
- Cultured Dairy. Yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, and some cheeses count as fermented foods.
- Veggies. Kimchi and sauerkraut are two examples of excellent fermented foods made from vegetables—but other veggies can be fermented too! Beets, radishes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and green beans are all vegetables that ferment very well.
- Condiments. Condiments, such as ketchup, relish, salsa, and chutney, can be fermented commercially or at home.
- Miscellaneous. Some other excellent fermented foods include miso, tempeh, tofu, soy sauce, and kombucha. Be sure to check that the sugar content is not too high on any pre-packaged or bottled fermented food.
How does one choose and store fermented food? Here’s a couple tips…
- Food labels must be marked “fermented.”
- Fermented and “pasteurized” do not go together. Pasteurization kills live cultures.
- Pickled is not the same as fermented (unless indicated on the label). Pickled foods are soaked in vinegar or brine.
- Choose organic, non-GMO items or locally farmed products.
- All fermented foods must be kept cool to maintain the live cultures.
When introducing fermented foods to your daily diet, start with small servings such as 1-2x a day. A few easy ways to sneak in fermented foods? Toss fermented veggies into salads or rice dishes. Enjoy fermented food as a snack or as a side dish (e.g., beets, tempeh, kimchi). Or add a spoonful of a fermented food to your morning smoothie (e.g., beets, kefir).
If you’re convinced and want to learn how to ferment your own foods, check out a recipe below for a simple fermented vegetable medley.
Fermented Vegetable Medley
When you hunger for something tangy, nutritionally potent, and full of beneficial bacteria to help heal an aggravated digestive tract, fermented veggies are a wonderful option. They’re a great side to any meal (vegan or carnivore) and can be added to a hearty stews. This recipe gives you a variety of options, with a focus on veggies that are least likely to irritate those with sensitive digestion.
Equipment Needed for Preparation & Storage
- 1-gallon or 4-liter glass, enameled or clay jar which will be your fermentation jar
- 1 small plate that fits into the fermentation jar
- 1 small glass jar, filled with water
- 1 head of red cabbage, roughly cut
- 1 medium-size beetroot, sliced
- Handful of garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 T of sea salt
- 1 t. dill seeds or dill herb (fresh or dry)
Personal Choice of additional veggies & herbs: carrots, bell pepper, fennel, parsnip, radish, shredded broccoli, etc.
- Combine all the vegetables and herbs and put them into the fermentation jar. The amount of vegetables should not go beyond the half-way mark on the jar.
- Fill the rest of the jar with filtered water and add salt.
- Float the small plate on top and submerge it with the small jar (filled with water to keep it down). This way the vegetables won’t float to the top and get moldy.
- Leave to ferment for 1-2 weeks at room temperature.
- You will know the medley is ready when the vegetables are soft and tangy.
- To stop the fermentation process, transfer the medley to smaller jars and keep them in the fridge; they keep well for weeks.